« ZurückWeiter »
TITLES AND NOBILITY.
THE manly pride of the Romans, content with substantial power, had left to the east the forms and ceremonies of ostentatious greatness. But when they lost even the semblance of those virtues which were derived from their ancient freedom, the simplicity of Roman manners was insensibly corrupted by the stately affectation of the courts of Asia. The distinctions of personal merit and influence, so conspicuous in a republic, so feeble and obscure under a monarchy, were abolished by the despotism of the emperors; who substituted in their room a severe subordination of rank and office, from the titled slaves who were seated on the steps of the throne, to the meanest instruments of arbitrary power. In this divine hierarchy (for such it is frequently styled) every rank was marked with the most scrupulous exactness, and its dignity was displayed in a variety of trifling and solemn ceremonies, which it was a study to learn, and a sacrilege to neglect. The purity of the Latin language was debased, by adopting, in the intercourse of pride and flattery, a profusion of
epithets, which Tully would scarcely have understood, and which Augustus would have rejected with indignation. The principal officers of the empire were saluted, even by the sovereign himself, with the deceitful titles of your Sincerity, your Gravity, your Excellency, your Eminence, your Sublime and Wonderful Magnitude, your Illustrious and Magnificent Highness.
Roman Empire, vol. ii. p. 20.
THE titles of European princes are rather more numerous than ours of Asia, but by no means so sublime. The king of Visapour or Pegu, not satisfied with claiming the globe, and all its appurtenances, to him and his heirs, asserts a property even in the firmament, and extends his orders to the milky way. The monarchs of Europe, with more modesty, confine their titles to earth; but make up by number what is wanting in their sublimity. Such is their passion for a long list of these splendid trifles, that I have known a German prince with more titles than subjects, and a Spanish nobleman with more names than shirts.
GOLDSMITH. Citizen of the World, vol. ii. let. 120.
THE princes of Europe have found out a manner of rewarding their subjects, by presenting them with about two yards of blue ribbon, which is worn
about the shoulder. They who are honoured with this mark of distinction are called knights, and the
king himself is always the head of the order. Should a nobleman happen to lose his leg in b t12750gist
tle, the king presents him with two yards of ribbon, and he is paid for the loss of his limb. Should an ambassador spend all his paternal fortune, in supporting the honour of his country abroad, the king presents him with two yards of ribbon, which is to be considered as equivalent to his estate. In short, while an European king has a yard of blue or green ribbon left, he need be under no apprehension of wanting statesmen, generals, and soldiers.
Ib. let. 64.
By honour, in its proper and genuine signification, we mean nothing else but the good opinion of others, which is counted more or less substantial, the more or less noise or bustle is made about the demonstration of it; and when we say the sovereign is the fountain of honour, it signifies that he has the power, by titles, ceremonies, or both together, to stamp a mark upon whom he pleases, that shall be as current as his coin, and procure the owner the good opinion of every body, whether he deserves it or not.
Fable of the Bees, remark (C).
I HAD the curiosity to enquire in a particular manner [of the governor of Glubdubdrib, the island of sorcerers or magicians] by what methods great numbers had procured to themselves high titles of honour and prodigious estates; and I con
fined my enquiry to a very modern period, however, without grating upon present times, because I would be sure to give no offence even to foreigners;
reigners; for I hope the reader need not be told, that I do not in the least intend my own country in what I say upon this occasion. A great number of persons concerned were called up, and upon a very slight examination discovered such a scene of infamy, that I cannot reflect upon it, without. some seriousness. Perjury, oppression, subornation, fraud, pandarism, and the like infirmities, were amongst the most excusable arts they had to mention; and for these I gave, as it was reasonable, great allowance. But when some confessed they owed their greatness and wealth to the prostituting of their own wives and daughters; others to the betraying their country or their prince; some to poisoning, more to the perverting of justice in order to destroy the innocent: I. hope, I may be pardoned, if these discoveries inclined me: a little to abate of that profound veneration, which I am naturally apt to pay to persons of high rank, who ought to be treated with the utmost respect due to their sublime dignity by us their inferiors.
Autolicus. [To whom enter Old Shepherd and Son.] Here come those I have done good to against my will, and already appearing in the blossoms of their fortune.
Come boy; I am past more
Old Shepherd. children; but thy sons and daughters will be all gentlemen born.
SWIFT. Gulliver's Travels, part iii. cb. viii,
Son. (To Autolicus), you are well met, sir: you denied to fight with me this other day, because I was no gentleman born: see you these clothes? say, you see them not, and think me still no gentleman born. Give me the lie; do; and try whether I am now gentleman born.
Autolicus. I know you are now, sir, gentleman
Son. Ay, and have been so any time these four hours.
O. Shepherd. And so have I, boy.
Son. So you have :--but I was a gentleman born before my father: for the king's son took me by the hand, and called me brother; and then the two kings called my father brother; and then the prince my brother, and the princess my sister, called my father, father; and so we wept and there was the first gentleman-like tears that ever we shed.
0. Shepherd. We may live, son, to shed many
Son. Ay; or else 'twere hard luck, being in se preposterous a state as we are.
SHAKESPEAR. Winter's Tale, act. .
THE vulgar distinction between people of birth and people of no birth, will probably puzzle the critics and antiquarians of the thirtieth or fortieth centuries, when, in the judicious or laborious re.. searches into the customs and manners of these present times, they shall have reason to suppose, that in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth